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March 15, 2012
Virginia Commonwealth Â– 62
Wichita State - 59
COACH SMART:Â It was a great game.Â I thought coming into the game that Wichita State had one of the best teams in the country.Â And I still feel that way.Â They played really, really well.Â But our guys hung in there and we certainly didn't play perfect basketball in the second half, but they really showed a level of resolve.
We talked about that and battled, even after Wichita State took the lead, we didn't put our heads down.Â We kept fighting.Â And then these guys really made some huge plays down the stretch, which turned out to be the difference in the game.
Q.Â Can you talk about the final play with the flutter that you had, what you saw?
DARIUS THEUS:Â You know, it was a double drag play and they had the switch.Â And I seen the middle was open.Â I seen Stutz step up, so I know I had to float it high over him.Â It was a blessing, I got a lucky bounce and the ball just rolled in.
Q.Â Can you talk about just the mental, as your coach said, the mental resolve and the determination when you guys went down, to come back and pull this game out?
DARIUS THEUS:Â We've been working on mental resolve all season.Â It started in the preseason with some workouts throughout the summer.Â And mental toughness wins games.Â We went down, but coach didn't let us hang our heads.Â Told us to keep battling, and that's what we did.Â Led by Brad, he didn't let no one drop their head.Â The mental toughness started with Brad, him leading us out there.
Q.Â Can you talk about the last year the great run you had again, you're again a 12 seed, and started off now with another win.Â Talk about just kind of how that carries over to this year and the excitement of starting another tournament run tonight.
BRADFORD BURGESS:Â We wanted to use that as motivation for this year.Â But this is a different team with different goals and different identity.Â We have different guys doing different things than last year's team.Â We wanted to make our mark on this year's tournament.
Q.Â You guys were the first team to hold them under 60 points all year.Â Can you talk about how great an accomplishment that was and how much you guys focused on shutting them down?
BRADFORD BURGESS:Â That's just our defense.Â We've done a great job for the majority of the season holding teams under their average and holding their scores under their average.Â And that was the emphasis on today's game, holding Stutz and Ragland under their average.Â And we did a pretty good job.Â But we're winning, we're happy to advance.
Q.Â Yesterday you were asked about the Final Four run last year and not getting as many minutes as some of the other guys.Â How does it feel tonight, contributing as much as you did?
TROY DANIELS:Â It feels great.Â It's a testament to the summer that I had.Â We don't stop here.Â Coach talked to me over the season.Â We're not done yet.
Q.Â Darius Theus has been clutch late in the season.Â Troy, how confident are you with the ball in his hands late?
TROY DANIELS:Â I wouldn't want anybody else with the ball in our hand.Â That's our point guard.Â We love him.Â Coach Smart trusts him, so I trust him.Â I know he'll find me if I'm open.Â And he'll find open guys and he'll make the right play, and he did down the stretch.
Q.Â You guys were down 59‑57, to that point you were one for six on 3's.Â You get the ball and you make a 3.Â Can you tell me what went through your mind then?Â Were you thinking at all about the pressure?
BRADFORD BURGESS:Â There's no pressure.Â It was just a wide open shot, the ball got swung to me in the corner and I was able to knock it in.Â We practice that all the time.Â I got open shots, no matter what the situation is, it's another open shot that I was capable of knocking down.
Q.Â It was your first basket in the second half, may have been your first shot in the second half, were you waiting for the right time to put it up?
BRADFORD BURGESS:Â That was my second shot of the second half.Â But I should have been more aggressive in the second half.Â But I guess my second shot was a pretty big one.Â We were just able to battle through and win the game in the end.
Q.Â I know Stutz was in foul trouble.Â Was there anything you guys did to limit him specifically?
BRADFORD BURGESS:Â We wanted him to run up and down the floor, try to get him tired.Â We wanted to use multiple guys and guard him in the post.Â We wanted the guards to dig when he had the ball in the post and limit his touches.Â He got some points in the end, but I think we did a pretty good job overall guarding him as a team.
Q.Â On defense on the final play, can you describe what you thought they were going to do and what you did, because you did a good job of keeping it out of the shooters' hands?
DARIUS THEUS:Â Just switching everything and protect it the best way we can.Â And it just so happened to be in Stutz' hand.Â And he took a wild shot and had no chance of going in.Â I think we did a pretty good job that last possession on defense.
Q.Â Going back to that last shot, what did you do to force them to put the ball into a 7 footer's hands 21 feet from the basket?
BRADFORD BURGESS:Â Just switching all the perimeter screens, getting a contested hand on the shooters.Â I think Murry had a shot and Troy contested it pretty well, and it forced him to pass it to Stutz and Stutz had to hit a step‑back three.Â I'm not even too sure if it was a three.Â When we have shots like that at the end we're in pretty good favor.
Q.Â We talk about how the players evolve throughout the game.Â But how does your coach evolve throughout the game as it gets into more of a crunch time?Â This is another one of those underdog wins that you guys had.
BRADFORD BURGESS:Â He's great at motivating us.Â He's a very inspiring guy.Â Before the game, during the game, after the game, he's always just telling us things we need to hear to keep us motivated and keep us focused.Â He said at the beginning of the game that Wichita State is a great team, they've been playing well and they will make a run.Â They made a run in the second half and ended up taking the lead.
We just stuck with our plan and battled through it and ended up winning the game.Â When he's talking like that, we feed off him.Â It shows on the court.
Q.Â A lot has been made over the last couple of days about the "Washington Post" ad you guys took out.Â With something like that, does there come more pressure to try and back that up?
COACH SMART:Â First of all, that ad had nothing to do with our program or our athletic department, even.Â So I didn't even know about it until somebody sent us an email and said that's a pretty arrogant ad.Â I didn't even know.
So I think what our school was just trying to do was get people's attention and make sure that people are taking a look at VCU this time of year.Â Just like they did last year.Â I don't think there was any harm meant by it.
But, you know, I guess we live in a pretty sensitive age and it could have been looked at different ways.Â It's over now and you guys can write about it if you want, but we're moving on to either Indiana or New Mexico State.
Q.Â He didn't fill the stats sheet, but D.J. Haley seemed to really grind Wichita State to a halt.Â Can you talk about his performance today?
COACH SMART:Â That's what he does.Â He really ‑‑ his performance is always exponentially better than his stats.Â He only shot the ball one time, according to the stat sheet.Â He made it, it was a big rebound and was fouled.Â He got to the foul line three times, made two out of three, which we'll take that every day of the week for D.J., if you look at his free throw percentage.Â Two out of three is terrific.
I thought he rebounded well.Â He also did a really nice job on Garrett Stutz.Â You're talking about one of the best players in the Missouri Valley Conference.Â A guy was first team all conference and voted the most improved player in the league.Â D.J. really battled him.Â I thought he had a big role in Stutz going 2 for 11 and only being able to play 17 minutes.
Q.Â Obviously a great defensive effort holding one of the highest scoring teams in the nation under 60 points, but only 12 turnovers.Â What was sort of the formula today when you're not forcing a lot of turnovers?
COACH SMART:Â Well, there's a reason that Wichita State is so good and reason No. 1 is:Â Garrett Stutz, senior, Joe Ragland, senior, Ben Smith, senior, Toure Murry, senior, David Kyles, senior.Â Those guys have played a lot of basketball, and they're not just going to give you the ball.Â We knew we probably weren't going to be able to turn them over 20‑some times like we have other teams this year.
But we felt like our pressure could bother them in other ways.Â I felt like in the first half specifically our presence got them out of what the style of play that they normally like to play.Â They really weren't able to run their sets as much as they normally do.Â They took some quick shots.Â We did turn them over 7 times in the first half.Â And I think they shot some turnovers, too.Â Anytime you can force a team to take a quick shot and it's not the best shot or the highest quality shot, that's just as good as a turnover.Â And so that's what we go for.
I think overall we were able to create a level of fatigue, really for both teams.Â I think both teams got tired out there.Â We're used to playing that way.Â So I think that leaves the advantage to us.
Q.Â Double teaming Joe Ragland and getting the ball out of his hands, how important was that to you tonight?
COACH SMART:Â He's a terrific player.Â Honestly, he was the guy that concerned us more than anybody coming into this game.Â I think our guys did a really nice job on Ragland, even though he had 15 points.Â I think our guys really did a great job.Â He's gotten off in several games this year and had high 20 s or 30s.Â You just can't beat them if he's going to score that much.
We decided to trap him out of ball screens and I think what that did is it took away a little bit from his aggressiveness and made him pass the ball.Â Then from there we tried to apply pressure 94 feet, and make him work.Â He's a really good player, so he still got 15 points.Â But I think it did affect their flow offensively.
Q.Â Obviously even with the run you guys had last year you're still a low seed in this tournament.Â Do you use that as motivation for your team?Â Is there a certain attitude that you take into games with that kind of seed?
COACH SMART:Â Well, we like it because ‑‑ and we used this this year just like we used it last year, we kind of put a tape together of some of the pundits making their picks.Â And I would say probably 95 percent of the people had Wichita State winning this game.Â And we play that for our guys and we let them watch.
Now, if we didn't have enough confidence, then that could really shake our guys.Â But our guys are confident.Â We go into every game feeling like we have a good chance to win.
I think one of the motivational factors you always want to have going into any game is something to prove.Â If you have something to prove, you're just going to play harder, you're going to be a little bit meaner, you're going to be a little bit tougher out there.Â And we certainly had something to prove being a 12 seed.
It's interesting, we were watching New Mexico and Long Beach earlier and ‑‑ because we got here really early before the games.Â And I was talking to one of the coaches, I said, Every year there's a 12‑5 upset.Â I said, I hope New Mexico wins so we can be that 12 that upsets a 5.Â Nothing against Long Beach, they had a great year.Â But that was definitely a big factor for us.
Q.Â You guys had to answer a lot of questions all season about last year.Â How satisfying is it now that maybe now people will ask questions about this year for this group?
COACH SMART:Â Well, I think this team has shown that in its own right it's a terrific team.Â Now, we're still going to get asked questions about last year, maybe even more than before just because it's that time of year where we've won one game in this NCAA tournament, last year we won five.Â And people are going to want to compare.
Honestly, we won 29 games already this year.Â And last year's team only won 28.Â We won our conference tournament.Â Last year's team lost in the conference championship game.Â So in a lot of ways we've done better than what last year's team did.Â Only difference is obviously last year's team went to the Final Four.Â And we've still got a long way to go before we can approach that.
Q.Â I was going to follow up on his question, are you guys playing better than you were at this time last year, and realize it's a bunch of different players?
COACH SMART:Â Just very, very different.Â Last year we bombed in 3's at a ridiculous rate.Â And we were just able to not blow teams out, but we were able to go on runs, like 20‑5 runs where we hit four or five 3's over the course of five to six minutes.
This year we have a good shooting team, but nowhere near as good.Â I think we can still have games like that.Â We made six 3's tonight and we had a lot of good, open looks, we could have made more. Â And I would certainly take those runs that we had from last year.
But I think defensively we're much tougher.Â We grind it out better, we get after people a little bit more.Â And that's kind of been our calling card all year long.Â And I don't see that changing in the NCAA tournament.
Q.Â The two big 3's in the last three minutes both were on Carl Hall's side of the zone.Â Was that coincidence or are you able to say there's a guy that's not usually a perimeter defender, let's see what we can do on that side of the court?
COACH SMART:Â A little bit.Â We talked about it.Â But Carl had a really good game.Â It wasn't so much we were trying to pick on him.Â We wanted to get the ball to our better shooters, Troy Daniels rose up and made a deep one.Â He can do that.Â And Bradford Burgess, we were able to move the ball and get him a wide open 3 in the corner.Â It wasn't really a function of what side of the floor their defenders were on, it was just us moving the ball and trying to get an open shot.
Q.Â You like to play full court pressure.Â You like to talk about havoc.Â A lot of times though it comes down to winning the game in the half court.Â And that seems to be what you guys did tonight.Â Were you pretty confident that you would be able to do that if you had to.Â And last two shots taken by Bradford and Theus, would you rather have anyone else with the ball with the game on the line like that?
COACH SMART:Â Well, in answer to your first question, the really, really good teams, and whoever advances out of Portland and whoever goes deep into the tournament, you have to be able to play multiple styles.Â And even if you're a pressing, running team like us, you have to be able to play well in the slower game.Â You have to be able to get stops and execute in the half court.Â Wichita State did a really nice job tonight of turning the tables on us and they became the aggressive, defensive team.Â They pressed us.Â And that's a testament to them being able to play different styles.
In answer to your second question, Bradford Burgess is our best player, he's one of the top handful of players at VCU.Â There's no question we want the ball in his hand as much as possible.Â I thought Wichita State did a good job the second half.Â They really keyed on him.Â And then Darius Theus, he's made big plays all year long.Â He has a lot of guts, I guess is a nice way to say it.Â He's a gutsy kid.Â He's a tough kid.
He got a little frustrated with me early in the half, the second half, because I was kind of picking at him for not being as aggressive as I wanted him to be.Â But at one of the media timeouts I grabbed him, gave him a hug, and said, Let's finish this thing, I'm behind you, and he made a huge play.
Q.Â Going into the last timeout after Darius had scored, they had run up the court, you were fairly animated.Â You were out towards mid court.Â And one of the refs kind of shoved you back.Â What were you trying to get across to the guys on that last possession?
COACH SMART:Â The biggest thing is let's make sure we defend the three‑point line.Â If it's a three‑point job, if they hit a two, it does not hurt you nearly as much as them hitting a three.Â And you still have the lead.
And so we really wanted to communicate our defense, we wanted to make sure that we were getting a hands up on all shooters, and we did not want to foul a three‑point shooter.Â Those were the things I was communicating.
Q.Â How much confidence do you have in this team right now going forward into the next round?
COACH SMART:Â I have a lot of confidence.Â I think we're a young team, but we've gotten a lot better over the course of the year.Â We've really grown in terms of our ability to execute and hang in there in tough games, in close games.Â I think we've won, I don't know, like 15 out of 16 or something like that, so our guys are playing really good basketball.Â So I have a lot of confidence.
At the same time, hey, it's middle of March.Â That means anyone you play is going to be a high level basketball team.Â We were fortunate to beat one tonight.Â And then whoever we play on Saturday is going to be a high level basketball team.Â So that means we're going to have to play very, very well.
Q.Â The front court of VCU has been questioned a little bit this season.Â But yet tonight even though Reddic got in early foul trouble, Haley and David Hinton came in huge on defense, taking a couple of charges.Â How much confidence do you have in those two guys?
COACH SMART:Â Well, the reality is our front court is very, very young.Â And those guys are still developing, they're still emerging.Â You'd love to have a senior or two in front of those guys that you could kind of season them and get them better over time, but Haley and Reddic really got thrown to the wolves this year.Â Those are our guys.Â And those are the guys that we're running with.Â They're sophomores, they got a decent amount of experience last year.
But what they're being asked to do this year is 10 times, 15, 20 times what they had to do last year.Â Last year they came into the game here and there, and then sit down, and Jamie, you do your thing and we'll have those guys in the game.Â Now Reddic, Haley and Hinton, when he needs to come in, those guys are holding the fort down.Â They're getting better and better.Â I think in time D.J. and Juvonte will be among the better big guys in our league, and will be able to match up with anybody because they do have great size.
But as sophomores right now they're not there yet.Â They're getting better and better.Â We've won 29 games with those guys starting for us at the four and five, I'm proud of what they've done.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports